by Markus Winkler - Product Development Counsel
Already ten years have passed since I started off with my colleagues Mario Herndl and Andreas Koller as third member of the integration team for the US. It wasn’t my first journey to the US though. My first experiences with the USA go back to a student exchange programme in the year 1994. At that time, I already had the chance to develop my first long-term friendships with US Americans, which also made me move to the US for a semester during my studies. My friends provided me with a basic understanding of their culture and language. Still it was a first for me to work in an American company in the US for a period of at least one year. I have been with TGW in Wels for almost two years and it was hard to evaluate what kind of contribution I can offer for a company that has already been in the conveyor business for more than 40 years – TGW Ermanco.
On Sunday, 14th August 2005 we started early in the morning, and I almost felt like a pioneer conquering a new country. It was good to know that I had an apartment ready at my new home and that my workplace would be prepared for me. Furthermore, I knew what was expected from me and what the goal was, so I had a plan ready. However, nobody knew whether my plan would be successful – nobody has ever done it before and thus I could just learn for myself and make my own experiences.
But this was what it was all about – making experiences to improve for the future. I remember my introduction to the US team very well. I was probably a few decades younger than most of them. After I explained my educational background, one of the first questions they asked me was about my industry experience. And yes – compared to formidable 20 or 30 years of my new US colleagues, my scarcely two years were almost non-existent. You might think that I was treated in a patronized way or without respect then, but it was completely different and I was perfectly accepted by all of them. Maybe it was just the widely known openness of Americans towards something new, but I suppose that my colleagues have recognized that I brought along a very valuable kind of experience. During the months, I became aware that my knowledge and my experience with the TGW world was very important for my US colleagues. I knew the world of TGW in Wels in detail, I knew how everything worked and I was able to name important colleagues to contact. My US colleagues did not know about this world, they did not know the rules we are facing during our work in the TGW world, yet we expected them to become a part of it.
Thus, in my beginning role of a pioneer conquering something new and building bridges I consequently became some kind of ambassador, mediating between persons, uncovering unknown backgrounds and connections and consequently clarifying misunderstandings or even disputes. Often there were just trifles causing a lack of understanding or even frustration. Not only for my newly acquainted US colleagues, but also for persons in the well-known TGW world who were not able to reproduce certain issues and asked why the new US company is working in such a “complicated” way and why they would not do it like they do it in Wels. I became an ambassador for both sides and even today, I still feel like one.
„Growing up“ in the TGW world of the headquarters, you accept things as given and natural. But for others, who are not familiar with this world and the way of working, this might seem completely irrational and not understandable. And therefore, we need to invest time in order to create this mutual understanding for each other’s side. Even after all these years, I benefit from what I have experienced in the US … I would definitely do it again!